Saturday, September 10, 2011

Accretion Risk

For a while now various threads of thought have been coming together in my head and half unbidden have merged to form the basis for a fairly interesting fantasy world. This is not something I really never intended to happen. I have enough to deal with with the existing fantasy worlds in my head already. What with my hack (which is more a small pocket dimension to be fair), and the world I have built up over the years in my dreams (which are related more then you might think) and all. I really don't need more. And thats not even counting the other ones that have formed in my head over the years that have been abandoned and slowly faded into little more then a memory. Now I fear another has sort of popped up in there. Well to be honest four of them (not counting two other realms that don't really count), but they all are so interconnected they might as well be one.

I think it started when I was playing Disgaea a year or two ago, but it probably was in formation in my head much earlier, as I have known about things like the six Buddhist realms for a long time (and of course basic Christian ideas of heaven and hell for far longer). The basic idea was just to do what has been done millions of times in fiction, with angel/demon worlds with the human world in the middle, but I added an additional major supernatural force: Fairies. Or fae. That is the oringinal mythological kind. In addition I came up with the idea that angels, demons (well humanoid ones anyway), fae, and even normal humans, were more or less the same thing, or at least had common ancestors. And slowly more ideas popped up, and it has gotten to the point where every fantasy related idea that isn't part of my dreams or doesn't fit into my hack has migrated to this newly forming world.

I have thought a lot of the cosmology of this world, some of which crosses over with the shared cosmology of my dream world (part of which I wrote about already), namely the Void and to a lesser extent the River of Souls. The Void is the emptiness outside all worlds (which I called such long before Dr. Who did it I might add, though I did get the name and some of the concept from somewhere else, though most of the concept is from experiences going outside levels in games and having distressing dreams about it). The River of Souls is more or less a spiritual realm or pathway that connects all worlds, and can be seen as sort of like FF7's "Lifestream" concept mixed with the concept of the astral plane, and works sort of like a river made out of the souls of the dead, which are pulled downstream and reincarnated elsewhere. The thing is, I actually usually use the term River of Souls in other contexts to metaphorically refer to the collective unconscious or noosphere, and the world that I came up with based on my dreams has a much less direct method of reincarnation, but they are more or less connected. I must say I find my dream world a lot more interested and less "constructed", which is one of the reasons I put off wanting to do anything with this new one for so long.

The way reincarnation works here is a soul will be swept down the current and either naturally reincarnated or resurrected in a new form, depending on the content of the soul. If it fails to find a fitting place for it, it ends up in the Void and is lost. In my dream world, if your curious, the soul returns to the archetype or archetypes that spawned it, along with all it's memories and traits, rarely for a strong willed soul that doesn't fit any archetype becoming a new archetype (which fits more in with how I think "reincarnation" of figures like the Dalai Lama actually works in real life, if a type of indirect memetic reincarnation counts, which is dubious at best). A big difference then is that in this new world souls can vanish into the void, where in the dream world souls always return in some form and the void instead only really destroys matter. There may also be a place at the "shore" where the River of Souls washes things into the void which will probably be called "The Realm of Forgotten Dreams" or something. Such a place is actually sort of important to my hack's story only I was originally going to call it "The Hall of Forgotten Characters", though that might be part of it. It's kind of a depressing place. Remember when I said I had a few worlds I had abandoned in my lifetime? Yeah.

Other then the Void and River of Souls being somewhat the same, it's a completely different setting though. Again there are four main realms, all connected by the River of Souls which can sometimes be transversed magically but usually only in a way similar to astral projection, as actual physical travel is both risky without a portal open on both sides, and even then has side-effects. Mostly the idea is that each world has slightly different properties.

The Human/Mortal realm is the only place where beings naturally are born, grow, age, and die. A being form any other realm who goes there will start to age and eventually die. In addition beings in the human realm are quite limited to how strong they can become (I thought of this as a fun way to explain the way demons in Disgaea can level up to level 9999 when the limit of most RPGs is 99). A being that is too powerful will not be able to enter the Human/Mortal realm (without dieing, being forced out, or possibly extremely rapid aging) unless it uses magic to make a section of the Human/Mortal like it's own realm (which also explains why final bosses then to stay put in a castle) or sealing/weakening their power.

In the Angel realm beings cannot be born, grow, age, or die. In addition emotion must be controlled, and they must have a degree of "unity of thought". This is more or less because the angel realm is maintained by the angels inside it. When there is peace and the angels get along, the angel realm is blissful and perfect. To much dissidence and strife causes it to break down and become unstable, so any threat to the peace is cast out. Angels increase their number by pulling souls out of the river of souls that the Angels think are worthy, and resurrecting them in new bodies. As such, Angels are interested in teaching and helping humans become like them. Even if they can live forever in the angel realms, after at least a hundred years or two, they often either become tired of their life and decide to reenter the river and become reincarnated somewhere else, or less often become rebellious and need to be cast out. The origin of the realm is that long ago the angel realm was actually created by an advanced civilization of humans as a way to live forever.

When the angel realm was first formed, the angels did not know of the instability caused by the clash of ideals, and after a while the instability built up and threatened to destroy the realm. in desperation, angels only means of saving the land was to cast out all that did not agree to follow a strict spiritual code, but there was dissident among some who disagreed with the majority's more strict ideals and could not or would not go back to the mortal realm. They had to be cast out by force, but thanks to either some trick of magic or blind luck, many of them found them selves in what is now called the Demon realm. Native beings in the demon realm are usually not born but simply come into being though spontaneous generation, and are usually mindless monsters. These monsters could and would consume each other and take on the traits of those who they ate. It was a brutal world, and many of the new angels were consumed. They also felt the hunger as will, and reluctantly also ate the flesh of the monsters they managed to slay when they could find no other recourse. The monsters that consumed enough angels and the angels that consumed enough monsters gradually began to become more alike. The monsters started to learn and the angels became stronger but less civil. The new hybrid race was born, but they found that if they reproduced, the offspring would be a mindless monster unless they consumed enough flesh of another of there kind. But a solution was found. If there offspring was infused with the right kind of human soul picked from the river, they would be born in a human form and have a human mind. Thus the new demon race was born.

The mysterious fairy realm is another matter entirely. Very few humans know much about it, and even fewer if any know it's origin. In truth, of the lost tribe of humans who went on to become angels, the rest of there race took another path. Instead of attempting to live forever, they decided instead to master reincarnation. What exactly happened to them I am not sure yet. All I am sure is the fairy realm is the result. Beings in the fairy realm will be reborn in a new body when they die with most of their memories intact. But over a few deaths they will become more childish and forgetful, and each bodies lifespan is much shorter then a human, only at most 20 to 30 years, except for kings and queens witch live longer. The realm seems to have been created by somehow magically sealing a large mass of land, possibly using standing stones, land carvings, and other strange magical artificial structures found in a region of the human/mortal world. It is said these places connect to the fairy world, as well as some deep forests or other natural places. Sometimes fairies leave their realm, on purpose or by accident and seem one of the few beings that can cross over at will (though powerful beings can't go far form where the worlds touch). Fairies often take humans back with them and if when they die they reincarnate as a fairy and are made kings or queens which they revere for being able to think more clearly and make decisions for them, but they usually only take those who dieing anyway or are not likely to be missed, and they have a preference for children, the very old, or the unwanted, who are less likely to want to escape back to their old life.

Aside from the basics, the human/mortal realm is actually probably the most developed, simply because so many ideas fit in there. There is probably a religion run in the name of the angels as their main way of recruiting humans to join their ranks, but demons are unlikely to need a religion as they base their choices on personality and spiritual power, and may be feared because of propaganda of the angels as well as for being often much less human looking. Angels and Demons likely need to convince humans to allow themselves to take their soul though (maybe it has to be a willing choice when the time comes), or even bind them (the deal with the devil archetype could be used, but I have no idea why a demon would need a deal, unless just thinking you are bound makes you unable to reject it when the harvest). There is probably a race of elves which are despondent of fairies, and maybe a few other races too besides humans. I thought of making a dwarf-like "dwarrow" race which actually look more like the dwarves in final fantasy series and have dark black skin, reflecting yellow cat-like, and whiisssper witthh hisss in thhhere vvoicce (but can actually yell very very loudly when they want to). All of these being things (minus maybe the black skin) that I think would be more logical for a race that lives primarily underground. They could see in very little light, use their voices for echolocation and long distance communication in tunnels, and so on. They would probably almost never appear in daylight. Hows that for a Our Dwarves Are All the Same subversion eh?

There are several ideas for games I came up with based on this framework over the time I was thinking about it. One of the first ones was the idea to make a game like a fusion of EVO and an obscure snes platformer called King of Demons. The idea was to play as a human girl who somehow got sent to the demon world and could gain new abilities by either eating enemy demons to gain demon body parts or abilities, or somehow purifying them to get angel parts/abilities, with probably a few fairy parts/abilities too but I am not sure how that would work. Probably couldn't really work with the setting in it's current form, but it might. Another idea was a mons game involving binding or creating spirit familiars which slowly migrated to the setting and started to become more like a general rpg, with the trainer character and other humans also fighting. Today I was playing a particular x-rated (and I am not ashamed to admit it) text game called Corruption of Champions which actually could possibly fit in well with the setting, and I was thinking what a game like that might be like.

In the end, I probably won't do much with this setting, because to be honest, I find it a bit generic and uninspired. It's just something I slowly found myself thinking about and before I knew it, I had planned it all out without thinking of it very much. It might be fun to play with, but I just want to work on my hack and eventually do something with my dream world. My hack story is fun to work with because it is subversive and metafictional. My dream world is fun to work with because it is entirely based of a lot of the dreams I have had since I was ten or younger, which fit together and build on each other surprisingly well, and it's more interesting that I consciously created very little of it (but I have overanalyzed how it works, like most of that reincarnation stuff is more analysis then anything else, but there is evidence for it).

I guess for a generic magical fantasy world with angels and demons, it's still pretty interesting.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Let's Interface

Six or seven months ago, I think some time in march, I came up with a plan. A crazy plan. A silly plan. A plan involving a series of games I always had a interest in despite not being the most refined or enjoyable series of games in the world. That game series is Pokemon. That plan is the one I began with a last desperate bid to get an event pokemon, and it is almost complete. On my birthday in July I received the second item, a brand new 3DS, and today (well yesterday now) I received the final item, that of a brand new copy of Pokemon White. Now it is only a matter of time till my plan is complete.

Quite a while ago

But all that crap is completely besides the point of what I actually wanted to talk about. What I wanted to talk about is a realization I made while playing Pokemon White and also with the 3DS. Well not so much a realization as a conformation, since it's something I have thought about before. And that is that computer interfaces are getting so much more... maybe not better, but more INTERESTING at least. How they look and how they behave, and what they do, from the 3DS's little "augmented reality" games to the pretty way the menus open up and fold out, as if the game menu was a device on the character's wrists, the way the 3DS organizes things and how the 3D works, all sorts of little details most people don't really ever think about.

A while ago, I don't remember when, I learned about what I have heard referred to as The Mother of All Demos, and event in 1968, where a team of scientists first demonstrated ideas about computer interfaces to the world. A lot of the way commuters work today can be traced back to that team. When I watched it I was awestruck. Here seeing some of the first ideas of how these things work take flight.

But more then the practicality it's also the look of the 3DS and of Pokemon's interfaces that gets me, and not only interfaces, and not only the 3DS. It seems the new "future look" is that cool sleek plastic ipad-like thing, and that seems to extend both to interfaces and devices.

I also have to say one of the things I really like about Pokemon in particular is how the newer games fuse the interface into the story and the setting in some way. Black and White's visuals have tons and tons of interesting technological devices, a lot of which serve some gameplay purpose. it did it the last game I played too, and to a lesser extent to the older ones. And as I alluded to before, pretty much the whole menu system and various new abilities and functions are actual devices your characters use. And I think that's super neato. I think Homestuck also deals with some fun devices come to think of it. Like the whole alchemiter thing. It's neat to think about what you could do with these hypothetical technological marvels.

( Side note: As an added bonus to my plan, my brother finally found my long lost copy of Ruby that he misplaced when I lent it to him (the fact he got it for me in the first place is besides the point). Which means, I have a perfect line of secession through Generation III, IV, and V, even if my Generation IV games are remakes of Generation II, so I don't get all the Pokemon from IV, but I do get all of them from II and probably most of Generation I as II also featured the regions and Pokemon of I. Why does this matter? Heck, I am not even sure any of my plan matters.)